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Harbaugh finally gets to field his position

The Baltimore Sun

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has spent the three months since being hired mostly planning for the season - hiring staff and meeting with players - just waiting for the team to finally take the football field.

That will occur today when the Ravens begin a three-day minicamp at their complex in Owings Mills, the first of three the team will hold during the next month.

"We've been working the draft. We've been working the weight room. It's exciting just to work on football," Harbaugh said earlier this week. "I can't wait to be in front of that group being a football coach."

How many players Harbaugh will be coaching this week has yet to be determined. Though the Ravens reportedly have had as many as 50 players working out at the facility over the winter on a regular basis, the first two minicamps are considered optional.

Asked whether he expected 100 percent attendance, Harbaugh said: "Probably not. Guys have obligations. ... I think we'll have the vast majority of them here. Guys are trying to work out their schedules. We're hopeful for every single guy."

In the past, linebacker Ray Lewis has been among the missing, choosing to work out with his personal trainer. Harbaugh said he has spoken with Lewis but is not sure whether Lewis will be at minicamp.

Quarterback Steve McNair should be there, though. McNair, hoping to keep his 13-year NFL career going after a turnover-marred, injury-filled 2007, has been a regular in Owings Mills the past couple of months.

Given that Rex Ryan was the only coordinator retained from Brian Billick's staff, it is likely the first couple of minicamps will be more vital to the offense than the defense.

Tight end Daniel Wilcox, who has recovered from the foot injuries that bothered him nearly from the start of training camp through the regular 2007 season, said he expects the tone to be set for the new season at the first minicamp.

"We'll probably do a little more than the past three or four years," Wilcox said.

Though the NFL limits the amount of time teams spend on the field during minicamps, Wilcox said: "Study-wise and meeting-wise, we'll probably be in there as long [as in training camp]. You've got to basically take advantage of every hour you can get."

Wilcox said the biggest issue going into the first minicamp is McNair's health and whether he can regain the form that helped him lead the Ravens to a 13-3 record in his first season in Baltimore. In last season's 5-11 collapse, he was limited to six games before undergoing shoulder surgery.

"Steve's the leader of this team," Wilcox said. "You want your leader to come back healthy and come back ready to me. With the surgery he had and as beat-up as he got last year, you have to take into consideration whether or not he's going to be OK. Right now, he looks great. I think he's doing a heck of a job to prepare for this season."

Though still in the midst of preparing for the draft, general manager Ozzie Newsome will be more than an interested observer at minicamp.

"I think the coaches are looking forward to the players and the players are looking forward to the coaches, and it's going to be fun for me to go out and watch other people coach and teach and motivate," Newsome said. "It'll be as fun for me to watch the coaches as it will be to watch the players."


DRAFT BLITZ With the NFL draft just around the corner, April 26-27, turn to The Sun and baltimoresun.com for expanded coverage. We'll begin an all-out blitz of draft coverage Sunday.

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